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Healthy Aging Recommendations
Nic Gonzales sits down with Dr. Jim Powers, Associate Professor of Medicine, Geriatric Medicine to discuss healthy aging recommendations, screenings, and resources.
Check with your Local Public Health Department for information including preventive screening and referrals.
For the aging population, the American Geriatrics Society has information for consumers on healthy aging and recommendations.
For Health Care Providers, the Choosing Wisely campaign provides information on being good stewards of health care resources.
Nic Gonzalez: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Nick Gonzalez with Health Plus. I am here today with James Powers, Associate Professor of Medicine with the speciality of Geriatric Medicine. We will be discussing a few topics related to healthy aging month. So, thank you very much for being here. I am looking forward to speaking with you.
James Powers: It is a pleasure to be here, Nick.
Nic Gonzalez: Alright. So, for a starter, what are some of the most important things that people can do to help maintain their health throughout life?
James Powers: It is very important to be aware of many spheres of activity in terms of your health. We know that as we get older we lose the ability to respond to stress our bounce back ability or reserve is less in many spheres. So, I have a number of recommendations. One is to maintain a healthy social network. If you are connected, you have more resources of support. You are more likely to stay independent and remain in your own home for the longest amount of time. That is very important. Secondly, stimulate your brain. Using it and not losing it is a very important recommendation. The more you challenge your brain to remember to exercise your cognitive abilities, the sharper you will remain as life goes on. Physical activity is also very important. We have learned a lot in recent research that what is good for cardiovascular fitness is also good for brain health, and people that exercise maintain their independence and live longer. There is no question. You are what you eat. Your mother was right. It is important to have a balance of nutrients in your diet and not to have excessive amount of weight. It is important also to avoid fat and cholesterol throughout the life. We need some of course, but excessive amounts predispose you to diseases of overnutrition. As you get older, it is very important to make sure that you have all the nutrients included in your diet. A dietitian once told me, “Choose colors, and if you have a colorful plate, you probably are getting all of your nutrients.” That’s good advice. Have a physician or a practitioner that can guide you throughout life. None of us like to go to the doctor and myself included; however, it is very important for healthy advice and for screening as we progress throughout life’s journey. Reduce stress in your life. People that have stressful lives are sicker, their illnesses are harder to recover from, and their quality of life is also much reduced. And also, although this is not a strict medical concern, make sure that your life in estate planning is in order. Talk to your loved ones about your wishes in case you cannot make decisions for yourself, both in terms of your healthcare wishes and dealing with your financial affairs. Having those things decided and under control, if you get sick is a great relief to your family and of much benefit to you.
Nic Gonzalez: That is great. You touched on things that people can do no matter what ages they are at in their life, you know, things that can really help as they get older. So, that was really great. Tell me some of the screenings that people should be getting and how the most important ones and then also talk a little about the Choosing Wisely campaign.
James Powers: Sure, screening is very important for all of us, but the recommendations change according to age and according to the individual condition. We are guided by many societies, in particular the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce which makes recommendations about screening for different age groups. To talk about the elderly, it is important to remember that there may be many different illnesses that we are screening for such as colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and these screening practices are important throughout life. There may come a point for the older individual if there are many disease processes going on where it may not be necessary to screen for some of these things because of the expected lifespan of the individual, but that has to be individualized. On the other hand, screening for conditions that are preventable and treatable is very important and if caught early many conditions can be brought under control and the patient’s quality of life greatly improved. The Choosing Wisely campaign was developed by the American College of Physicians, and it is a set of recommendations for healthcare providers to be good stewards of healthcare resources, that is, choosing tests and screening procedures that are going to be a benefit to the patient and not wasteful and unnecessary, and many different medical societies are now adopting this approach, and we are seeing a lot of guidance coming out now for the medical community.
Nic Gonzalez: It is really important to know how people are going to get screens that they do not necessary to have. Like you said, no one just loves to go to the doctors. So, that is really helpful. Well, thank you so much for talking with us today. This is all really important information for people to have, and we hope we will talk to you again soon.
James Powers: That is my pleasure.
Nic Gonzalez: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or suggestion, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the “Contact Us” page on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.